Monday, November 24th, 2014

When should Supreme Court justices recuse themselves?

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly sparred over the rules for recusals on the Supreme Court. The interview quickly turned testy; we're taking a look at two of the claims made during the segment.

In a high-voltage interview on Fox News that became a YouTube hit, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly engaged in a heated debate about when it’s appropriate for justices to recuse themselves from cases before the Supreme Court.

Weiner argued that Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from any case that challenges the constitutionality of the health care law backed by President Barack Obama. Weiner argued that Thomas’ wife, Virginia, worked for groups that oppose the law, which, he said, gives Justice Thomas a financial stake in the outcome of the case.

"Under the clear letter of the law, he must recuse himself," Weiner said.

We talked to a number of legal experts and found there is a great deal of disagreement  about whether  Virginia Thomas' previous jobs meet the definition of "financial interest" or whether it's enough to establish that Justice Thomas' "impartiality might reasonably be questioned." At the least, the law is not  "clear," as Weiner's suggested, that Thomas must recuse himself.  And so we rated Weiner's statement Half True.

We also looked at Weiner’s statement that Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself in "many cases where she had little role" as solicitor general, "simply because the appearance (of a conflict of interest) was there." We found that while Weiner is right that Kagan has chosen to recuse herself even when her participation in a given case seems minor, she still made her decision based on what the law demands. We rated Weiner’s statement Half True.